YOUNG scientists can go on to help save the world, if one previous winner's career is anything to go by.
Dr Stephen Langrell, from Belfast, won the top prize in the competition back in 1986 and now he is part of a team of scientists charged with ensuring crops survive despite climate change.
Dr Langrell (right) was on hand in the RDS yesterday to explain to this year's entrants the project he prepared over two decades ago.
He said that winning the competition had inspired him to become one of the world's leading experts on the effects of climate change on food.
As a 17-year-old student, he prepared an ecological study of the cottonweed -- an endangered plant species. Later that year, he represented Ireland at the International Science and Engineering Fair in Fort Worth, Dallas, Texas, winning third prize in the Environmental Sciences Division. The cottonweed project inspired him to pursue a career in plant sciences, specialising in the area of plant pathology and biosecurity.
He has worked as a molecular plant pathologist and biosecurity specialist, before joining the European Commission's Joint Research Centre in 2003. He is now a principal scientific officer involved in European and international research related to sustainable agriculture, food security and climate change.
His work focuses on examining the impact of climate change on different crops, how to prevent various diseases affecting crops, and how to help farmers diversify.